Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard’s two-week rest became three as he was ruled out of the Bulls’ Super Rugby match against the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday due to a calf strain.
As part of the compulsory resting periods agreed between Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus and the South African Super Rugby coaches, Pollard was going to fly home after the Brumbies game and be rested for the Bulls’ two matches in New Zealand, against the Blues and Highlanders.
But his departure has now been brought forward by a week.
“We decided it was not worth playing him this week, plus he’s not available for the next two games so he’s going to come home.
Coach Pote Human said in a conference call from Sydney: “It happened in Monday training, we pulled him out and were hoping that he’d recover well enough to play, but sadly not.
“He needs a break anyway and he will be fine for the Lions game when we come back.
“It’s just unfortunate for this match because this is one we were targeting. He’s a world-class player and we will definitely miss him.
“The loss of his experience is a concern, but Duane Vermeulen has been unbelievable, Schalk Brits is still there and Burger Odendaal has captained the team before.”
Vermeulen, the Springbok eighthman, is also due his two weeks of rest and will be flying home on Saturday. That leaves centre Odendaal to captain the team in New Zealand, with loose forward Hanro Liebenberg as his deputy.
Highly rated former SA U-20 flyhalf Manie Libbok now has at least three games to prove his worth, particularly with Springbok veteran Morne Steyn headed to Loftus Versfeld next season.
“Without Handre and with Manie at flyhalf it becomes a bit more of a challenge, but he would not be around if he was not good enough, that is for sure.
“To take over from Handre is not easy, but Manie has done well for us and I have the utmost confidence in him.
“He is an exciting young talent and we are looking forward to watching him grow,” Human said.
Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Cornal Hendricks, Johnny Kotze, Burger Odendaal, Rosko Specman, Manie Libbok, Andre Warner, Duane Vermeulen (c), Hanro Liebenberg, Paul Schoeman, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Brits, Lizo Gqoboka. Bench: Jaco Visagie, Simphiwe Matanzima, Wiehahn Herbst, Jannes Kirsten, Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier, JT Jackson, Divan Rossouw.